One of the best things about volunteering at an obedience trial is that they are almost always held indoors and air-conditioned. The dogs and handlers are usually well behaved, at least we always hope so. Jobs are easy and on the job training is abundant. The best and easiest place to start is as a ring steward. You can even request to work in a specific ring so that you can learn as you work.
Here is a little more about each of the jobs that typically need to be filled at an obedience trial:
RING STEWARD: This job varies depending on the ring you are working in and it may vary slightly with each judge that is overseeing each class. You may be asked to be ready to take the handler's leash when an off leash exercise is about to begin and then return the leash to the handler when they are finished. Another time you may be asked to stand still with arms crossed for about a minute while a dog and handler heal around you and another steward. This is called the figure 8 exercise and is done at the Novice and Open levels. You may be asked to help set up the signs for Rally, set up or adjust jumps, set out the articles for Utility, or even help hand out trophies.
TABLE STEWARD: The Table Steward oversees a ring and makes sure everything is in order and runs smoothly. They handle any conflicts and communication with the judge. Before each class armbands are given to handlers as they check in. Stewards sit at a table by each ring and may hand score sheets to the judge as each dog enters the ring. The judge records each dog’s scores while the dog and handler complete the exercises. When the judge hands the score sheet back to the table steward they add up any faults and calculate the scores. Some judges prefer to handle their own score sheets and add up the scores themselves. They will let each table steward know how they would like everything handled. This job has slightly more responsibility than the other jobs.
GATE STEWARD: The Gate Steward checks dogs in before their class begins. They make sure that the next 3-4 dogs are near, in order, and ready to go as it’s important to keep things moving. The gate steward will cue each handler when they can enter the ring and cross off their number on the board as they begin. If there is a group sit and down the gate steward makes sure dogs are lined up in order prior to going into the ring. Gate stewards also assist with handing out the trophies when each class finishes. This is not a difficult job in an obedience trial.
HOSPITALITY: If you are helping with hospitality you may be the one to set lunch up in the kitchen area when it's time for lunch. You may have brought food in and check with the table steward to see when lunch should occur.
RAFFLE COORDINATOR: The Raffle Coordinator is in charge of selling raffle tickets and keeps an eye on the raffle table to make sure that everything is kept in order.
While in a competition ring, here are a few important things to remember: Be sure you do not have any food in your pockets or spilled on your clothes. Never touch a dog that is in the ring unless told to do so by the judge. If you are unsure of your duties just ask the judge or table steward. They are both grateful for your help.